Background: Flu-like syndrome (FLS) is a common adverse event experienced by patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) treated with interferon beta (IFNβ). FLS can lead to poor treatment adherence and early IFNβ discontinuation. The involvement of interleukin-6 (IL-6) in the occurrence of FLS has been suggested. We hypothesized that cetirizine, a second-generation histamine H1 receptor antagonist able to reduce the levels of IL-6, might improve IFNβ-induced FLS. Methods: We conducted a pilot, cross-over, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study to evaluate the efficacy of cetirizine 10 mg added after each IFNβ injection to the standard of care for FLS (acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) on FLS in patients with RRMS treated with IFNβ. Patients were randomized to two treatment sequences: 1) 4-week treatment with placebo added to the standard treatment for FLS, followed by 4-week treatment with cetirizine added to the standard of care, and 2) first addition of cetirizine, then of placebo. The primary efficacy endpoint was the mean change of FLS severity [11-point visual analog scale (VAS)] after 4 weeks of treatment within each sequence. Results: Forty-five patients (71.1% female, mean age 39.1 years, mean time from RRMS diagnosis 5.8 years) were randomized to treatment sequences 1 and 2. The differences between cetirizine and placebo in the intensity of FLS were not statistically significant: total mean VAS scores at 4 hours from IFNβ injection were 3.57 and 3.42 for cetirizine and placebo, respectively (difference –0.15; 95% confidence interval: from –0.74 to 0.44; p = 0.6029). The two treatments were similar also with regard to other efficacy measures considered and to the safety/tolerability profile. Conclusions: The addition of cetirizine to the standard of care for IFNβ-induced FLS in patients with RRMS does not seem to provide significant benefits compared with placebo. Further effort is required to understand the mechanisms underlying IFNβ-induced FLS. Trial registration: EudraCT 2013-001055-12.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)